In 2013, the city of Melbourne in Australia issued ID numbers and email addresses to its trees in order to allow citizens to report threats to trees' health and to guard them from vandalism. The project didn't go as planned — but I mean that in the best way possible: In the two years since, people have used the email addresses to write love letters to their favorite trees. Is it the most heartwarming thing ever. Yes. Yes, it is.
The project was originally begun as part of Melbourne's Urban Forest Strategy with the noblest of purposes: Protecting the trees. However, it had the unintended consequence of opening a line of correspondence between people and their arboreal friends. It's all very The Giving Tree, but without the depressing ending. People write to the trees about every manner of subject, from the banal to the deep and existential.
We can learn a lot from the love letters people have written to trees. On a practical level, we can take away an important message abut civic engagement. People want a reason to care about what's going on in their cities, and there's something really sweet about people utilizing this resource in such a quirky and innovative way. More importantly, however, we can learn a lot about love. I'm not even trying to be tongue-in-cheek here; I genuinely think these messages will warm your heart and teach you something about that warm fuzzy feeling and why it's so awesome. There is an incredibly powerful message to be taken away from the people who send love letters to trees, despite the fact that the trees can't respond. Putting positive messages out into the world is always a good thing, and it's something we can all try to do a little bit more often.
Here are five other things we can learn from the love letters:
1. Be Thankful
2 February 2015
Dear Algerian oak,
Thank you for giving us oxygen.
Thank you for being so pretty.
I don't know where I'd be without you to extract my carbon dioxide. (I would probably be in heaven) Stay strong, stand tall amongst the crowd.
You are the gift that keeps on giving.
We were going to speak about wildlife but don't have enough time and have other priorities unfortunately.
Hopefully one day our environment will be our priority.
This letter, written to an Algerian Oak, teaches us an important lesson about taking time to thank people for things we might otherwise take for granted.
2. Don't Make Assumptions about Gender
29 January 2015
Willow Leaf Peppermint, Tree ID 1357982
Hello Mr Willow Leaf Peppermint, or should I say Mrs Willow Leaf Peppermint?
Do trees have genders?
I hope you've had some nice sun today.
This is just a good rule to live by.
3. Ask Important Questions
1 July 2015
Are you worried about being affected by the Greek debt crisis? Should Greece be allowed to stay in the European Union?
Even if someone doesn't know the answer, it's important to ask difficult questions to get conversations started.
4. Nobody's Perfect
29 January 2015
You are my favourite tree, even when you make me stoop over during my morning run when you grow too big.
Love thrives despite imperfections.
5. Loyalty Is Key
29 January 2015
I used to think you were the Magic Faraway tree when I was a child.
Now that I’m an adult, I still look forward to seeing you as I come around the bend after a tedious crawl down Hoddle Street.
A loyal friend always there waiting to say hello.
Your friends who are there for you are the most important ones.
Images: Getty Images (6)